Over half of EU internet users occasionally use a language online that is not their native tongue, according to research by Eurobarometer. However, the study also found the majority of users prefer to use the internet in their native language.

The survey, conducted by the public opinion research wing of the European Commission, polled a total of 13,500 people – 500 for each of the EU member states. It showed that many users thought they might be missing out on something because they could not understand the language used on a website.

English is the dominant language used online, with 48% of those interviewed saying they use it “occasionally”. Usage varied across the continent though, with countries such as Greece, Malta and Sweden (with either strong English education or ties to the language) having a much higher usage rate than Italy.

Enabling user to understand content is an issue the EU is addressing:

“If we are serious about making every European digital, we need to make sure that they can understand the web content they want,” wrote Neelie Kroes, the EU’s comissioner for the digital agenda, in a statement. “We are developing new technologies that can help people that cannot understand a foreign language.”

The European Commission is currently investing 67 million euros ($96 million) across 30 research projects that investigate improved techniques for translation of digital content, including 2 million euros to the iTranslate4 website, a relatively new site that provides machine translations of many European languages. (Source: Deutsche Welle)

What languages do you use online?